If you want a riding mower that can handle a few extra jobs on your property, consider a light-duty lawn tractor. They're generally less expensive than heavy-duty yard tractors, and are built for mowing up to 2 acres and managing attachments like a small garden cart.
The John Deere D110 (Est. $1,700) performs at the top of its class. According to one expert test, it bags and mulches clippings almost as well as the John Deere X304, and discharges better than the D140. Reviewers like how smoothly the hydrostatic transmission shifts and say the 42-inch D110 handles well. It's even strong enough for some attachments like a snow blade.
Even though John Deere is one of the most reliable lawn tractor brands and the D110 gets high marks from experts and owners, some say its durability isn't on par with the brand's pricier lines. A number of owners mention problems with the transmission at HomeDepot.com, and Popular Mechanics points out a few minor quality issues that are "insubstantial and evidence of cost cutting."
The 46-inch Husqvarna YTH21K46 (*Est. $1,600) costs a bit less than the John Deere D110 and gets great performance reviews. Popular Mechanics calls it the best lawn tractor for less than $2,000 in its write-up, and MowersDirect.com gives it a grade of A for its "excellent cutting and collection of both grass and leaves."
The YTH21K46's 16-inch turning radius is tighter than the D110's, and users like the way it handles overall with simple controls and a smooth-shifting hydrostatic transmission. The ride is comfortable with a high-backed seat and controls at your fingertips. However, a few owners and one expert say it can sometimes scalp on tight turns or steeper slopes.